While in Iraq last April I came across my cousin Zaid. Zaid's an awesome guy with an awesome family with a horrible problem. He's diabetic. Normally that wouldn't be too much a cause for concern in the west. But in Iraq and especially during the 13 year long sanctions he was unable to get appropriate treatment. One of the consequences of not having appropriate car for a diabetic is the atrophy of your extremities. He's been losing toes and now has lost the lower half of his left leg.
Being a hacker and problem solver and newly equipped with 123D Catch I thought I could take a scan of Zaid's leg and bring it back to the states to help with the creation of a 3d printed better fitting prosthetic. Creating a catch of a person's flesh is a challenge so I came up with a solution to draw feature points on his stump as a way of doing point matching.
The files for his leg are in the files section of this photo instructable. Here is a fly around of the 3d data of his leg:
Zaid was experiencing pain at insertion point of his prosthetic. And although I initially thought that making a better fitting 3d printed prosthetic would help, a few months after I came home from Iraq I met Joel Sadler at a hackathon here in SF. He's helped design a 20$ knee joint and other awesome stuff at Stanford. After describing Zaid's problem he suggested that an exoskeleton which distributes the weight off of the prosthetics insertion point to the rest of his leg would be a better solution. I returned to the states and the next time I returned to Baghdad I brought a knee brace with me.
The idea was that if we could tie the brace tightly enough around the prosthetic, the metal bar that goes through the brace would help distribute the weight to the top of the brace attached to his thigh. I was able to prototype this project the last time I was there with Mujtaba from the Iraqi hackerspce Fikra Space. It didn't remove all the pain from the pressure point on his leg, but it did help. It appears that the addition of a more natural body shaped insertion point would help relieve the rest of the pain. I'd also like to be able to drill the prosthetic into the leg brace but didn't want to damage a 1,200$ prosthetic, even if it doesn't work that well.
Here's to hack DIY medical care and the future of DIY problem solving. I think that the leg brace technique can help other amputees who have very little of their leg remaining with their pressure pain. I believe the Biomechatronics group at the Media Lab is working on a method which addresses the body forming 3d modeling and molding aspect of the prosthetic and I'm very interested in checking it out.
It's also really exciting to see more open source, 3d printed, and DIY prosthetics projects popping up. Democratized health care. I bet the regulators are concerned ;). Check out this 3D printed robotic hand kickstarter, the OpenExo, Robohand's complete set of mechanical prosthetic fingers on thingiverse and also the Open Source Prosthetics Movement.
Any suggestions, please add them to the comments! This is a GEMSI / Autodesk funded project. The Global Entrepreneurship & Makerspace Initiative is a program of the School Factory and we work on globalizing DIY, open and hackerspace culture.